Monthly Archives: February 2007

Learning to love the follow-through

A previous blog touched on the need for follow up and like many people, I love starting new things, but struggle a bit with the follow-through. I am fascinated with follow-through in business – maybe it’s that old adage “we teach best what we most need to learn” – so I have been re-reading The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and am impressed with the way Fort Hill have operationalised these six disciplines with their Follow-through Tools®.

It’s another version of ‘feedback is the breakfast of champions’ – and shows how we can become more purposeful in our learning. I have taken this message to heart this year. I don’t know how many books / articles and blogs I have read in the past, where I have a faint glimmer of the idea or message but no way to jog my memory to recall the detail and thus no way to act on it.

So this year I have implemented a new personal discipline – taking notes when I read and then capturing the essence of the idea in a blog, then looking for examples where I can apply that idea, or reflecting on situations where if I had applied the idea we might have acted differently and the outcome would have been different too.

For readers of this blog, join me in adding a little dash of discipline to your life – what’s one area where you can apply a little more follow-through, in order to get better results?

Sharing Ideas at nPODS – Goran Carstedt

I recently enjoyed immersing myself in ideas for two days solid at the National People & Organisation Development Summit organised by Andrew & Tammie Greatrex of Global Leaders Network. I vowed publicly to summarise the sessions I attended but of course work got in the way, so I have chunked the task down to summarise a speaker every few days.

Day 1 session one – Goran Carstedt, former head of Volvo and IKEA and Society for Organisational Learning (SOL) steward. I enjoyed the session and the slight let down was that he had to start late and shorten his session, so he cut out most of his stories and talked instead about the underlying principles that he had learned as a leader. Even though I loved the principles, I see the value of stories in the ones he did tell.

Goran started by talking about the benefit of sharing ideas (see my blog entry from 10 Jan!) where we each end up with more and that the ‘new logic’ is not what we own (scarcity has value) but what we share (plentitude has value). This confirms the value of spending time to learn technology like blogging, that allows me to connect with a larger audience and reinforces my commitment to sharing ideas.
He spoke of setting up SOL fractals around the world and I liked the idea of learning fractals – each a smaller image of the whole. This is one of my passions at the moment – how to encourage learning communities in organisations.

I especially liked: that we ‘create’ human energy by inviting people to contribute to something meaningful, purposeful and learningful – something worthy – not by requiring obedience to rules and regulations and profit. This is becoming a bigger theme in contracting with clients – we want to work with clients who want to share their returns with their employees and other stakeholders. Thus, I loved the distinction that “Profit and Not-for-Profit are two ends of the continuum and in the middle is Not-only-for-Profit“. Creating a new mental category opens up lots of opportunities for organisations that have been constricted until now and it is another demonstration that we cannot think and imagine new ways of doing and being until we have the language to support it.

Three more ideas I particularly liked:

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Management Innovation – is this an oxymoron?

A recent article by Gary Hamel, titled ‘The Why, What and How of Management Innovation‘, intrigued me, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. I’m familiar with product, process and service innovation but management innovation? In my opinion there’s a word missing – the article is really talking about management process innovation, but obviously that’s not as strong a title.

So what’s the message?

Hamel says that “A management breakthrough can deliver a strong advantage to the innovating company and produce a major shift in industry leadership. Few companies, however, have been able to come up with a formal process for fostering management innovation. The biggest challenge seems to be generating truly unique ideas”.

He suggests a series of questions to uncover whether our management processes are supporting or exacerbating big organisational problems and whether they are supporting or limiting big organisational opportunities.

This links to another HBR article by Bower & Gilbert – Whose Strategy is it? The authors have observed that the “carefully-crafted strategies of senior management” can be derailed by the decisions of middle and front line managers. They rightly observe that “every time a manager allocates resources, that decision either moves the organisation into or out of alignment with its intended strategy”.

So, taking asset allocation as a management process, we can apply Hamel’s thinking and ask “How we can innovate the system to ensure it delivers asset allocation decisions in line with the desired strategy?”. In a wider sense, both articles refer to the typical management issue of how to innovate the personal choices that all managers and employees make about where they allocate their time and efforts – which is the province of the Personal Efficiency Program that Paul is licenced to run.

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Analysis but not Paralysis

Over the holidays, I (Sharon) read an eclectic collection of books – from Storytelling in Organisations, to Design philosophy, to Evidence based Management, to the McKinsey approach to consulting, to Reframing Organisations and the First 90 Days for new leaders.

One thread that runs through a lot of these books is effective analysis – how to make sure we are analyzing the situation effectively and how to ensure we are acting on facts and evidence where possible – but not taking so much time in analysis that the time for action passes us by. Another thread is synthesis – how to make sure that we connect things so that we can see how the whole is related.

Michael Watkins, in The First 90 Days, suggests that new leaders need to be able to quickly diagnose what type of a situation they are walking into and I think this is equally true for a consultant (internal or external). I liked his classification of business situations into four types (I have changed his wording slightly):

Start up – new business / area needing some structure and processes;

Continuation – a successful team / area who need to be encouraged and challenged to improve their level of performance;

Realignment – a team or area in potential trouble who need to be convinced that change is necessary;

Turnaround – a team or area in actual trouble and needing urgent action, including painful personnel, process or product changes.

A few minutes spent asking ourselves “what assumptions am I making about this team / area and what evidence do I have to validate my assumptions?” can change how we approach clients and teams and can impact the outcome. Read on for more to find out how I applied the concepts and check out the book at Amazon or Dymocks. Continue reading

Want real commitment to change? Tune to WII-FM

I often get asked “How can I get my staff to commit to this change?” and I laugh internally at the implication in the words. It’s human nature to want others to give first, but it’s been my experience that leaders need to be prepared to give in order to get.

One way of ‘giving’ is to show our commitment first and be subject to the same standards. David Maister’s blog describes a great example of this type of commitment from the President of a global advertising firm, who asked staff to evaluate him as a leader and then promised to resign if he did not improve his rating as a leader.

Another way of ‘giving’ is to describe how the change might benefit them personally, not just benefit the organisation.

So when you next want a commitment from your people, think first about tuning in to the universal station, WII-FM (What’s In It For Me): Describe what you are prepared to offer from your end, or what benefit you believe the change will provide to them as individuals, before you ask for their commitment. Read an example below. Continue reading